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New 'metamaterial' practical for optical advances
Date:5/15/2012

ten their commercialization, Boltasseva said.

"It's possible to adjust the optical properties in two ways," she said. "You can vary the concentration of aluminum in the AZO during its formulation. You can also alter the optical properties in AZO by applying an electrical field to the fabricated metamaterial."

This switching ability might usher in a new class of metamaterials that could be turned hyperbolic and non-hyperbolic at the flip of a switch.

"This could actually lead to a whole new family of devices that can be tuned or switched," Boltasseva said. "AZO can go from dielectric to metallic. So at one specific wavelength, at one applied voltage, it can be metal and at another voltage it can be dielectric. This would lead to tremendous changes in functionality."

The researchers "doped" zinc oxide with aluminum, meaning the zinc oxide is impregnated with aluminum atoms to alter the material's optical properties. Doping the zinc oxide causes it to behave like a metal at certain wavelengths and like a dielectric at other wavelengths.

The material has been shown to work in the near-infrared range of the spectrum, which is essential for optical communications, and could allow researchers to harness "optical black holes" to create a new generation of light-harvesting devices for solar energy applications.

The PNAS paper was authored by Naik, Boltasseva, doctoral student Jingjing Liu, senior research scientist Alexander V. Kildishev, and Vladimir M. Shalaev, scientific director of nanophotonics at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and a scientific adviser for the Russian Quantum Center.

Current optical technologies are limited because, for the efficient control of light, components cannot be smaller than the size of the wavelengths of light. Metamaterials are able to guide and control light on all scales, including the scale of nanometers,
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert

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